Preparing to leave marriage, how to deal with sex in meantime
May 2, 2015 10:20 PM   Subscribe

I am in an abusive relationship. Not physical, but mental, emotional and verbal. I want to stress that there is no physical abuse. I am getting my ducks in a row & working on an exit strategy. It will be ugly when I leave, so I really need to have things in order when I do. Problem is - I haven't had sexual relations with my husband due to the fact that his treatment of me over the past year has repulsed me to the point that even the thought of it makes my skin crawl.

It would take too long to tell the whole story, so I'll try to summarize the best I can. My husband's true colors came out about two years ago, a year after our wedding. His temper is off the charts. I get yelled at and put down constantly. When I try to speak up, it only gets worse. I have come to know the terms "gaslighting," "stonewalling," and "victim blaming" all too well. It has been terrible. I have made the decision to leave, but because he is so cruel and controling, I have to plan in secret. I am lining up a new job & living situation. If I could go now, believe me I would. I am just trying to keep the peace for a few more months. I am walking on eggshells. I do not want to have sex with this man. I have told him in the past that his treatment of me is a turnoff. He does not think his actions are wrong. He is MR. RIGHT ALL THE TIME. He is getting upset about us not having sex. What can I do to avoid the situation, or how can I answer him when he asks why we are not having sex? Explainig to him that it is 100% because of the way he treats me will not work. I am so completely repulsed by him that I just cannot bring myself to be intimate with him. And I have discussed with him in the past that I WILL LEAVE if he continues to mistreat me, so when I do leave, it should not be a surprise - but he seriously does not see his actions as wrong or hurtful! Again, they are not physical, but I live in fear & will until the glorious day arrives when I can leave. Thanks for any wise words.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

Ahem: "I'm not in the mood and I don't want to be coerced. I'm going to see the doctor about it but I don't want to discuss it further until we have extensively ruled out a dangerous physical cause. This takes time. Thanks for your sensitivity. I'm distressed too. "
posted by taff at 10:33 PM on May 2, 2015 [21 favorites]

I have been there. It is awful. And scary.

I'm going to take you at your word that it is not safe to leave right now. Leaving is the most dangerous time.

However, you are worried that your husband may abuse you in still other ways. I am worried about your safety.

You can call a women's shelter and ask for help. They often have support workers who can help you create a safety plan for right now. You could also see a counsellor privately and ask for this help. A lawyer can also help with this. Women's organizations in your town may offer all of these services. I accessed some privately and some through the organization.

A trusted doctor, lawyer or counsellor/therapist can also help you with what you are experiencing and managing those complex emotions.

It sounds like part of your safety plan would involve not having sex. Some people invent medical reasons for not being able to have sex. In your case, this sounds like it might be an option. I am worried that he might insist on going to medical appointments with you. If that doesn't seem likely, then this affliction and all the medical appointments might allow you to go to look at apartments, lawyers, jobs, etc.

I am worried for your safety. I would feel a lot better if you contacted a women's center and asked for help in creating a safety plan. You are in control and you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. If you run into people who pressure you or say they won't help if you don't leave, you have the wrong people.

I also wonder if a lawyer or women's centre support worker could help you understand your financial options. You may qualify for spousal support or to maintain the family home and access assets.

I imagine you have tried setting some money aside.

You can call police and talk to the desk sergeant and ask about having your address red flagged for priority response.

You can try to stay in rooms where you have an exit. You can put away the knives and not have conversations in the kitchen or bedroom too.

Possible medical covers might be major cramping and worries about womanly afflictions or perhaps insomnia so bad that you can't sleep in the same room...?

I completely support you being in control and making the best decisions for yourself. I hope you will consider whether the risks to your current safety are worth staying.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:37 PM on May 2, 2015 [26 favorites]

I bet if you go to your doctor and explain, s/he will come up with some sort of "note" for you to use as an excuse.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:44 PM on May 2, 2015 [22 favorites]

I know you say you need time, but I think you should be doing everything you can to get to a safe place, right now. Even if he hasn't become physically abusive yet, he sounds highly volatile and you can't trust him. If he finds out you're leaving, who knows what will happen?

If you absolutely have to stay and you need to lie to him to avoid sex, maybe you could say you have hepatitis-a. It can last for as long as six months, and he probably won't want to touch you while he thinks you've got it. (And while it's sexually transmissible, you can get it without having sex so he won't assume you're having an affair.) It also causes nausea and fatigue, which you could use as excuses for why you seem so quiet and distant.

But even as I suggest that, every impulse is telling me faking an illness isn't the way to go and you just need to get out of there. Whatever you decide, good luck.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:00 PM on May 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

You have a yeast infection. Recurrent.
posted by St. Hubbins at 11:01 PM on May 2, 2015 [32 favorites]

You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224. This organization is available "24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year to provide confidential crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands." The national organization or a local organization may be able to offer you assistance with leaving as soon as possible, and safety planning strategies in the meantime.

Information about how to find an attorney, including free and low-cost assistance, is available at the MeFi Wiki Get a lawyer page.
posted by Little Dawn at 11:05 PM on May 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think faking some sort of infection in your lady area could be enough that he may not even want to have sex. If you say you're not in the mood, he obviously won't care and will still want to do it. I would avoid anything that could possibly be an STD, even if there are other causes, because he will probably suspect you're cheating regardless and freak out. Maybe you can plant the seed by complaining about some symptoms, (i.e. very itchy or something) and then later you can be "diagnosed" with a yeast infection or something like that.

I do think you need to get out of there, and make sure you have a support system and a plan for when you do.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:02 AM on May 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Adding a vote for recurrent yeast infection/BV cycle. Simple enough to not require doctor's visits at first, gross, not an STI (you can blame the spring weather, even) and you can actually leave a bunch of Monistat paraphernalia around the bathroom or have the topical cream on your underwear (whatever level of detail he would notice, sorry for tmi) to make it convincing instead of it just being your word about a more serious diagnosis.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 12:04 AM on May 3, 2015 [15 favorites]

OP, first, I want to offer you support in making a plan and biding your time until you feel you have things set up so that you can go safely. It sounds like you have assessed the situation as effectively as you can (and better than strangers on the internet can) and have made the plan that's best for you. It can be really difficult to not return to an abusive relationships, sometimes multiple times, and getting things in order is really one of the key parts of ensuring that doesn't happen, because, sadly, things do not always sort themselves out.

Abused women get so accustomed to being told that they don't know their own minds and they need to do x, y, and z. You do know your own mind, and you sound brave and strong. I'm sure you will step up the speed of your plan as soon as you are able. You might consider finding out whether there's someone you can stay with sooner rather than in a few months while you line up the final bits of your plan, but I trust that you are competent and effective whatever you choose to do, and that you have your reasons for the choices you are making!

I would be tempted to combine the recurrent yeast infection route with Taff's suggestion. That is, there is a gross reason you don't want to touch me right NOW plus there seem to be other issues that I am going to see a doctor about.
posted by tiger tiger at 12:27 AM on May 3, 2015 [8 favorites]

First thing, congratulations on taking at least some of the first initial steps to walking away from the relationship. Many victims of DV take time to even get to the realization point, so you should feel proud of getting to this point.

However, it is important that action following all this planning needs to happen. Even if the abuse is not physical, emotional abuse is already slowly tearing you down (I'm sure you know it). It is probably not that apparent how big of a weight it might be till you actual gain independence.

The NDV Hotline, alongside any local resources can provide some advice on how to proceed, but I think even they would suggest that even if the abuse is not physical...

To avoid his odd sex, leaving is a great idea. No need to tell him anything, right?

Personal experience;
My work colleague, also now a great friend, struggled through a 1-2 year process of recognizing, planning, leaving, and readjusting from her non-physical DV. It took so many after work crying conversations in the work parking lot, many hours of research on her behalf, driving her around to setup individual bank accounts and places to stay, and a few instances of helping her move to get humpty-dumpty whole again. She moved 4 times total in the 1-2 years before settling on her current residence.

It was very stressful for her as she was not a native speaker and as such had few resources. All she did she had to do out of pocket.

Getting out was also very sudden and chaotic, but nonetheless she is in a far better place now then before.
posted by Bodrik at 12:41 AM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

If I could go now, believe me I would

Consulting with trained professionals at the National Domestic Violence Hotline can help identify all of the options available. It may be possible to leave tomorrow - if the primary barrier to leaving is financial, there may be ways to address that through a local agency or organization. It may also be possible to qualify for free or low-cost legal services, which could help expand the universe of options available for leaving as soon as possible.

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, people who batter have common characteristics:
Emotionally dependent
Excessively jealous
Can be very charming and then suddenly angry and violent
It sounds like there are real risks to your safety, and there may be faster options for your escape. State coalitions are listed here.
posted by Little Dawn at 1:01 AM on May 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Do you have anyone that you can stay with (without him knowing) until your new situation is available?
Can you put your things in storage and live in a battered woman's shelter for a bit?

Those last few months are incredibly dangerous, even if he hasn't hit you yet. Leaving my marriage was the nicest thing that I ever did for myself. I wish I would have done it sooner. Don't waste another day of your life living in that prison. And do reach out for help. I was so afraid of my ex-husband that I wouldn't even get counseling after, because to publically admit what he put me through invited all sorts of wrath from him. I couldn't risk him finding out. I regret that. I regret the years of living in fear and not getting help to deal with what he put me through.

Part of being with someone like that is that they isolate you emotionally. You are told your feelings and thoughts are wrong. You are made to believe that you are horrible and no one would love you or even like you if they knew you the way he knows you. This makes it difficult to ask for help. The changing moment for me was when I got something in the mail that showed me, in writing, that he was a liar. And why should I believe anything a liar said about me? This allowed me to get away but, because I was so afraid of him and still had the emotional intimacy issues, I just went to work right away and tried to act like everything was okay. It wasn't. It takes time to find yourself again. It takes therapy. I wish someone would have made me get help back then.

You are not alone in how you are feeling. The sooner that you leave, the better. Get help. Get help moving, get help in the form of therapy, get help in any way possible. You don't deserve what he has done and he had not spoken the truth to you.
posted by myselfasme at 4:47 AM on May 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm disappointed to see how many people are second-guessing your ability to analyse the risks. I support you in making a long-term exit plan. How many months do you need until you can go? Recurrent BV or a problematic fibroid would give you time.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:25 AM on May 3, 2015 [28 favorites]

I had to also be creative when planning my exit strategy. Here's a list of ailments that can each last a few days to a few weeks, and you can go back through the list as needed. These got me through several "don't touch me you make my skin crawl" months:

painful ovulation
upset stomach
"weird" discharge, sometimes painful
urinary tract infection
exhaustion(so feigning sleeping)
yeast infection
sinus infection
pulled back muscle

Having my list mentally prepared made it a lot easier. Good luck.
posted by kinetic at 6:03 AM on May 3, 2015 [15 favorites]

"I'm not in the mood and I don't want to be coerced..."

I am usually accepting of many viewpoints and I know this is well-intended advice, but this is probably the equivalent of waving a red flag in front of a bull. It could send him into irrational, "So you're saying I coerce you? You're saying I'm a rapist?" and could escalate veryvery quickly.

Don't say anything like this. Stick with the list of ailments. If needed, appear apologetic about them and have lots of doctor's appointments and tests done.
posted by kinetic at 7:00 AM on May 3, 2015 [11 favorites]

Um, if you aren't good at lying and he starts to suspect that you are lying, then his mind could jump to infidelity, which might amp up his rage and increase the danger to you.
posted by puddledork at 7:09 AM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Couple of comments deleted. If you have a question about moderation, please directly address it to mods at the contact form; it does not belong in the thread. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:21 AM on May 3, 2015

A hormonal issue that is throwing your whole reproductive system into disarray? The symptoms might include irregular menstrual cycles, pain and cramping, thrush or BV because your pH is out of whack. It could also take a long time to get the bottom of the issue, especially if you have to make appointments with several specialists who have long waiting lists. I'd try to keep details about it pretty vague, because lying is stressful. Hopefully he's clueless enough about female anatomy that he won't ask too many questions anyway.

I like the idea of getting something from your doctor as proof. Perhaps a list of changes that she wants you to make over the next few months to help treat your ailment? Things like changing laundry detergent to something without fragrances, abstaining from sexual activity, etc.

The thing about laundry detergent could also be a way for you to bring up your illness before he starts asking questions about why you aren't having sex with him.
"Honey, is it okay if I stop buying [scented laundry powder] and start buying [organic, fragrance-free laundry powder]? I'm having a problem with recurrent thrush. My doctor thinks that it's probably a hormonal thing, but she wants to rule out other things before we organise blood tests."
And, surprise, weeks later the problem is still there. It's time for more tests and appointments.

I'm worried about you, OP. I'm sorry that you're going through this and I hope that you're able to get out of there safely as soon as possible.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 8:00 AM on May 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just to add that while a yeast infection isn't an STI, men can pick one up from sexual contact, so this may be a 'better' condition than something that just makes you not feel like sex, e.g. a migraine, as he could always overrule that. Sending you strength x
posted by Dorothea_in_Rome at 8:39 AM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Erosive lichen planus would be a good reason to not have sex. You could say you suspect you have it, and you can't get in for an appointment for 6 weeks, because it requires a specialist.

Complain of itching all the time, and burning when you pee.

The treatment requires an ointment, which, depending on the kind of guy he is, might be unappealing to get on his penis. That may not get you out of blow jobs or hand jobs, though. (Although there is a related disease that also affects the mouth, you wouldn't be showing the symptoms.)
posted by vitabellosi at 9:58 AM on May 3, 2015

Erosive lichen planus would be a good reason to not have sex. You could say you suspect you have it, and you can't get in for an appointment for 6 weeks, because it requires a specialist.

Can also affect the opening to the anus.
posted by vitabellosi at 10:00 AM on May 3, 2015

Can you be away from home at whatever times you guys used to do it? E.g., get a job at a late night restaurant (to save for your future together of course), or "have to go to work early" for awhile?
posted by salvia at 10:39 AM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you're going to have an issue with your health, a lot of antidepressants lower sex drive and regardless of whether you want to take them I'm betting it would be easy to get a prescription for them and then tell him you're having various trouble adjusting to them but your doctor wants you to continue them because it can be an issue with the adjustment period. Bonus for stuff to tell him: lots of antidepressants can have weird side effects, including nausea, headaches, GI issues.
posted by bile and syntax at 12:45 PM on May 3, 2015

I would not only get diagnosed with a medical ailment as my excuse for why he can't touch me, I would go so far as to suggest to him that the fact that I have been ill without realizing it explains my lack of interest in sex these past few months (and possibly apologize profusely and have a good cry about what a terrible wife I am).

Since you haven't had sex recently, I am concerned that if you suddenly have a medical excuse to avoid sex and don't do a bit of mollifying in the process of announcing it, it may provoke him and/or make him suspicious that you are up to something.
posted by Michele in California at 2:30 PM on May 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Please be careful OP! Abusers don't follow the rules of logic or decency. In my experience with my abuser, he was ALWAYS looking for ANY tiny reason to accuse me of lying and then use that to justify every horrible thing he did to me. I advise you to back up any story you plan to tell with some nearly impossible to refute evidence. I think telling your doctor and enlisting her help might be a good idea if you have a doctor you like and trust. Letting professional people who are trained in dealing with domestic violence know what you are going through is a good idea. It may help you later if you need a record of the abuse in order to get legal action taken. People like a domestic violence hot line or shelter in your area are a good idea. Or people like your doctor. As someone up thread said, if anyone puts pressure on you to leave before you feel it's safe, please look for help elsewhere.

Just be EXTREMELY careful and take every single precaution you can. Listen to your instincts, they will steer you better than anyone else can. You are smart and good and you can do this. Life can and will be great again. I will be thinking of you.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:31 PM on May 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

OP, just another thought. If you do consult your doctor please make sure your husband will NOT have access to your medical reccords. Make sure the info they have on file does not say that they can share information with him.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:53 PM on May 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

I strongly recommend you call the Family Violence program near you. You are in the most danger when you prepare to/ leave. You need a safety plan. Even married, non-consensual sex is rape. Get the professionals to help you stay safe and get out.
posted by theora55 at 8:15 PM on May 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Regarding the yeast infection excuse:

My Harvard-educated dad thought my sister got a yeast infection from being promiscuous.

My ex thought I got mine from cheating on him. Much drama, of course, ensued.

I guess women will forever have to be careful, or they will be faced with these reactions.
posted by serena15221 at 12:10 PM on May 5, 2015

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